Our Views: AG probe of location tracking deception warranted

September 23, 2018

For many, and for good reasons, keeping personal information private is a big deal.

Arizona is leading the way on one area of personal privacy, namely tracking your every movement. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is investigating “a major tech firm’s” tracking of personal location, travel routes and activities even when consumers think they’ve turned locational sharing off on their cell phones.

The investigations follows the revelation by The Associated Press that Google continues to track these activities even when location sharing is turned off and Brnovich is using private outside lawyers for the work. If brought to court as a consumer protection case, state laws provide for fines of up to $10,000 per violation.

A few million Arizonans could be affected by the case and each could be tracked individually each day, each one a violation, for years. That could create a fine with many, many zeros at the end.

The investigation is fallout from a practice that is practically indefensible, though tech companies such as Google defend location and activity data gathering as meant to personalize and improve service.

Put another way, the practice is intrusive and downright creepy at best. It’s worse considering that smart phone users believe they have control of settings to opt in or not.

So what’s the big deal? One doesn’t have to be paranoid to think that personal data is often sought out and used in many wrong ways. Think of stolen credit information. Think of hacked bank accounts. Think of a bad guy learning your personal travel habits and destinations.

Those who see no problem shouldn’t bother with using passwords or even locking their front doors.

There is also a broader expectation of personal privacy, one that says one minds one’s business and expects the same from others.

That sentiment largely was at the heart of a 2014 proposed law in Arizona that would’ve prohibited the state from cooperating with the National Security Agency’s communication monitoring of U.S. citizens. The bill failed but represented the view of a lot of Arizonans about privacy.

We hope Brnovich can make some of the intrusions stop.

— Today’s News-Herald

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